Proximate causes and underlying driving forces of land-use change among small-scale farmers - illustrations from the Loess Plateau, China
Journal article, 2009
Small-scale farmers on marginal land in the Loess Plateau of China are adapting their livelihood to new situations and changes such as varying climate, new land-use policies, changing employment opportunities and new market situations. To avoid generalising explanations with regard to land-use change, interactions between proximate causes and underlying driving forces adopted from a meta-analysis model are explored through 23 in-depth interviews. This was done through collaborative work with farmers in northern Shaanxi Province and focused on the land-use situation between 1982 and 2005. The result reveals five categories of land-use change. The interaction pattern is broken down into eight proximate causes and four underlying driving forces. The dominant underlying driving forces are economic forces with short time horizons arising partly from compensation through policies, changes in crop demand from an expanding nearby market and a need for cash because of an increasingly cash-based lifestyle. The direct proximate causes were vividly described by the farmers as tools or means by which they are adapting to more abstract and indirect factors. These factors were identified as underlying driving forces. Hence, the knowledge and ability to separate the interaction into proximate causes and underlying driving forces are crucial in policy-making.